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She didn’t even make it out of the airport…

My friend and I arrived in Barcelona on Wednesday. I consider myself a savvy traveler, usually spending three weeks in Europe twice a year covering western, central and eastern countries. It’s not my first time to Barcelona. I know it’s notorious for pick pockets, having had countless warnings from people to be on high alert in the city. I warned my friend to be extra cautious. She dutifully wore her money belt but for whatever reason she only had her passport in it and not her cash and credit cards while we were traveling to Europe thinking she would switch things over here. I think you know where I’m going here. She took her wallet out to buy a ticket for the aerobus into downtown at the airport. That was all it took for her to be targeted. In hindsight, we have a suspicion the guy in line behind us waiting for the bus slipped into her daybag and stole her wallet. Gone were all her credit cards, debit card and 400 cash. We didn’t realize it until we went to check into the hotel. She called her bank immediately. They had all ready attempted thousands of dollars charges at various stores within the hour or so it took us to realize it. Not a great start to our trip but fortunately I always travel with two credit and two debit cards. I was able to give her one of my credit cards to use on the trip and plenty of cash. We will do fine.
Skip forward one day. We are enjoying lunch at a restaurant when right in front of our eyes a man and woman are walking by when a guy on a scooter and one on a bike grab their shopping bags and back packs right off them. She screamed, he fought back, bystanders intervened. The guy on the bike got away, the guy on the scooter was caught by bystanders. Broad daylight, right in front of the Palau de Catalan musica, it was all very brazen and rough.

Needless to say, we aren’t feeling particularly safe here. We both are glad to be flying to Granada tomorrow. I don’t want to be a naysayer about Barcelona. It’s a beautiful city but it has some serious issues with theft. I’ve felt safer traveling Gaziantep, Turkey as a solo woman than here. I don’t know if it’s because of the high unemployment here or what but I want others to be aware. Wear a money belt, keep your phone on a lanyard, if you have a day bag use something to secure it to your chair or something at restaurants. Enough said. You’ve been warned.

Posted by
6743 posts

Sorry for your experience... It is a long-standing issue in Barcelona - after all, together with Dakar, it is the only place where someone in my travel party has been a victim of theft - but yours is not the first account of a worsening situation. You came prepared for it, and it was not enough, which is mind boggling.
I am very confident that you'll feel safer in the rest of the country.

Posted by
9364 posts

I am really sorry this happened. Thank you for the warning for others.

Posted by
158 posts

My experience in Barcelona mirrors years, although mine dates back to 2000. It’s the only place where I have felt unsafe.

Posted by
13702 posts

My word! Hope the rest of your trip goes better. So glad she was traveling with you and not on her own. You are a good friend.

Posted by
862 posts

We (59 and 73) have been to Barcelona twice in the last 6 months and felt completely safe both times. We just exercised the same caution we do in any city. Cash stays hidden except for small amounts, cross body bag used, credit cards secured, and no eating at sidewalk restaurants unless we have no bags with us.

Only time we have ever seen a snatch and run from a bike was in San Francisco near City Lights bookshop.

Posted by
3830 posts

Your story is similar to many I have heard from foreigners visiting Barcelona.

I was born and raised in Barcelona and these days pickpocketing is so prevalent, that it has become part of the "authentic" tourist experience, no different than tapas at La Boqueria or visiting the Sagrada Familia. In recent years the theft epidemic in Barcelona has become more violent and brazen. All symptoms of the slow death of Barcelona, the pandemic was only a temporary reprieve. Many of my friends have moved out of the city to greener pastures in the suburbs. I actually wrote about the decline of Barcelona a few years ago - https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/barcelona-has-changed

The mass overtourism of Barcelona naturally invites criminals to prey on unsuspecting tourists.

I think partly to blame also are the local politicians. Many no longer live in the city of Barcelona, but rather in the smaller adjacent expensive towns like Sant Cugat or Sabadell. The politicians are also not taking these problems seriously and delivering serious solutions, for being afraid of looking too "heavy handed" or "authoritative".

For example pickpockets in Barcelona face no jail time and minimal fines, even when caught, in one case a pickpocket was caught 87 separate times yet never faced punishment, just a slap on the wrist. Another example are the squatters, once they break into your house/property, it is virtually impossible to get rid of them, in USA the police come and evict them no problem, in Barcelona it takes several years and many legal proceedings.

In Barcelona, I'd say more useful than a money belt is how you present yourself, pickpockets know the signs to look for a good tourist target. Day bags are a big no no, they are like dollar signs to thieves, especially American brands like Patagonia and REI. I know many on this forum will probably roll their eyes, but some effort trying to not looking like a tourist actually goes a long way to protect yourself.

The only time someone attempted to pickpocket me in Barcelona was when I was wearing a Hawaiian shirt (an American friend gifted me) on an escalator in the Metro. I must have looked like a tourist at first, but as soon as I confronted those pickpockets in Catalan they realised I was actually a local, and backed off. Just keep a low profile and don't attract attention, leave the REI day bag at home or and don't wear anything "loud" with obvious branding or logos.

However, no need for these extra precautions in the rest of Spain, while Barcelona's crime rate has been trending up in the past few years actually the rest of Spain's crime rate has been declining. I guarantee you'll feel much safer in the rest of your Spain travels.

Posted by
601 posts

Unemployment rate in Catalonia is 9,7%, and in the city of Barcelona 7,7%, I would not call it "huge".

Posted by
10898 posts

Another example are the squatters, once they break into your house/property, it is virtually impossible to get rid of them, in USA the police come and evict them no problem,

If that is true, it is in only a (very) few places

Posted by
3830 posts

@SunnyBlueFlax - this is what I mean by Day Bag - https://thesavvybackpacker.com/best-daypacks-and-day-bags-for-europe-travel/ Light weight backpacks usually with flashy colors or branding, where one stores valuables like camera, passport, extra money, phone accessories. A pickpockets gift.

The general rule is put nothing of value behind you, not in back pockets or in a backpack. Always have your stuff right in front. Pickpockets won't just "unzip" your bags they'll yank them right off when your not suspecting, the criminals won't care if they hurt you in the process. Basically don't have anything visible on you that could store multiple expensive stuff, especially in where tourists congregate like the Barrio Gotico, Airport, Metro entrances, Plaça de Catalunya etc. In less touristy parts like the Eixample or Gracia one can be less aggressively on alert.

From the example in the OP's post I think the mistake was putting the wallet in the Day Bag presumably slung from behind while distracted at the bus station after long flight.

This is only for Barcelona, in other cities in Spain you can exercise normal travel precautions.

Posted by
49 posts

Wow, this is discouraging to read. We were planning on a week long trip, going to base in Barcelona next month. We are familiar with being careful of pickpockets in Europe, but this sounds particularly bad.

Posted by
72 posts

Oh dear, thank you for the warning and advice. We also have a week in Barcelona planned next month. Now planning even more security measures and caution.

Posted by
243 posts

Thank you everyone for your kind words. I really hesitated to post at all about these. I don’t like to be a naysayer about a place and I really didn’t want to offend Carlos. I know he hails from Barcelona and holds a special place in his heart for Poland, as do I. (Poland is the best kept secret in my opinion.) I did post because I think people need to be aware how bad it is there.

To clarify a couple things, I use RS Civita day bag to carry my water bottle, a layer of clothing and a coin purse with 20-40 euros in it for the day. On transit, in crowded places and in Barcelona I wear it on my front side no matter how dorky I look. My phone is on a lanyard secured to me. I strap my day bag to my chair when dining. Everything of real value is in my money belt.

I don’t know what my friend was thinking not utilizing her money belt while en route but she’s a grown up and I’m sure has learned a lesson. She’s traveled with me before many times to France, Switzerland, Germany, Portugal, Poland, Czech Republic and Austria. She brought up before we had even seen the couple robbed how she wasn’t feeling safe in Barcelona and certainly wouldn’t want to travel there solo. We are in Granada now. It’s a completely different vibe. I feel totally comfortable walking around at night on my own. I’m not on high alert 24/7.

I brought up unemployment because it was on the nightly news here after the Spanish finance minister came under scrutiny for saying pensioners didn’t really need their pensions except to buy toys for their grandkids and help their sons pay the electric bill. The backlash was harsh. People said if unemployment wasn’t over 10% and an incredible 25%+ for those 25 years old and under, grandma wouldn’t need to help their kids pay the electric bill. I jumped to the conclusion desperation lead to the pickpocket problem. Perhaps Basque is better informed of the real numbers. I’ll defer to them. I’m not a local expert, just regurgitating what I heard on the news the other night.
Happy travels all!

Posted by
243 posts

Oh and I use carabiners on my day bag zippers so you can’t unzip them easily. It’s a good tip for anyone using the civita day bags!

Posted by
10055 posts

Barcelona has a convergence of groups from other countries that do this professionally. It's several groups and several different countries. Since many of these pros are underage, they aren't held when caught. Paris has the same problem but fewer groups from fewer countries.

So sorry this happened to your friend. We all slip up at some point.

Posted by
3830 posts

I really hesitated to post at all about these. I don’t like to be a naysayer about a place and I really didn’t want to offend Carlos. I did post because I think people need to be aware how bad it is there.

That is very gracious of you. I am not offended at all, I applaud you for your frankness and courage to post the truth. While Barcelona has a very popular "brand" as one of the great travel destinations of Europe, the truth is that Barcelona has a big ugly problem with theft which in recent years has become more widespread and aggressive.

It is very painful for me to see the decline of Barcelona, it is not just a tourist attraction for me, but it is my hometown. However it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to recommend visiting Barcelona due to the worsening epidemic of crime in the city.

I hope that one day the local government of Barcelona will clean up their act and make the city safe again, so that visitors like yourself feel comfortable to return, underneath Barcelona is a beautiful city, just going through tough times at the moment.

I hope that you enjoy the rest of your travels in Spain! Glad that you feel more safe in Granada.

Posted by
601 posts

As per the crime statistics in Barcelona (updated end 2022), 76% of arrests due to theft are of foreign origin. During the first 6 months of 2022, 2939 persons were arrested and 692 were Spaniards, being all the rest of foreign origin. Where from? Most, from Estern Europe and Morocco. Why? Well, it´s not really due to unemployment, it´s not a huge problem nowadays in Spain, we do desperately need workers in construction, in bars, in restaurants, in residences for the elderly...It´s a problem of organised mafia groups, that find it easier to steal than to work, Spanish laws are quite lenient on petty thefts and while they enter through one door, they exit through the back door.

And once said the above, Spain is still one of the safest countries in the world.

Posted by
243 posts

Carlos, I’m so glad you understand. My hometown is Portland, Oregon which has seen its challenges these past few years too. As much as I love Portland, I find it hard to recommend to visitors right now. It hurts to see your hometown struggle. I feel we are kindred spirits. I am so grateful for your insight and contributions on the Poland forum. You’ve been a great help to me and many others. Thank you.

Posted by
16 posts

Thank you all for the frank discussion and the safety tips. I have to say, this is disturbing to hear about Barcelona. My husband and I are planning to spend a week there in May (after several days in Seville and in Granada). We are saving Madrid and Basque country for another trip. But this is making me rethink Barcelona altogether. I've wanted to see it for a long time, but don't relish the thought of having to be constantly on alert. Should people avoid the city for now until things improve?

Posted by
3830 posts

I am so grateful for your insight and contributions on the Poland forum. You’ve been a great help to me and many others. Thank you.

Thank you for your kind words :)

Yes Poland is a great place to travel to and an unappreciated gem, no need to worry about pickpockets over there lol!

Posted by
3830 posts

But this is making me rethink Barcelona altogether. I've wanted to see it for a long time, but don't relish the thought of having to be constantly on alert. Should people avoid the city for now until things improve?

I'd say this is an issue that will not be resolved soon, maybe a cleanup of local government would do some change, but they are all "enchufados" as we say in Spain and not likely to turnover soon. Maybe in 10 years things could change maybe longer.

If you really want to see Barcelona sooner rather than later I'd say go ahead, just be aware, don't look too much like a tourist, keep your stuff in the front. 85% of Barcelona is safe, just the places you need to be alert are most touristy spots like the airport, metro entrances, las Ramblas, Barrio Gotico, Raval, el Born, Sagrada Familia, the beaches.

Most locals go their entire lives in Barcelona without any issues with pickpockets, I've never been robbed. Less touristy parts like Gracia, the Eixample, Sant Antoni, Poble sec, Poble nou, are ok and do not need hyper vigilance.

Posted by
3020 posts
Posted by
21 posts

I have a couple questions for the experts:
In Barcelona (or Spain in general), is there a need to keep your ID on you (e.g., for ordering alcohol)? Generally need ID on you in US.
Should a tourist keep passport/ID locked in the hotel room?

Are men safe to keep their wallet in their front pocket?

Appreciate feedback as always.

When we were in Italy, we were very vigilant of pickpockets, but I feel like we will need to be even-more-so in Barcelona. Thank you so much for the warning and information.

Posted by
601 posts

Well, if you´re clearly over 18, no one is going to ask for your ID, ever (that´s something I could never understand in the US...I was double the legal drinking age and I kept being asked for my ID). I would leave it in a safe place, no need to carry it (I´d take a photocopy just for identification purposes in case it´s needed)

Posted by
4439 posts

S J, I was also going to recommend those little locking caribiners. I actually use a slightly smaller version that is thinner for smaller zipper holes (A purse vs a pack). It is a key chain version, so just take them off and use individually. They are plastic, but they still do the job of slowing them down and if they yank at it, you will know.

Posted by
7530 posts

We love Barcelona, but in my opinion it is the pickpocket capital of the World.

Every time we go there, we hear first hand accounts from people that were victims.

A local told us that it is because pickpocketing is not treated as a crime in the justice system.

I always use my money belts (have passport and wallet in it). I keep one credit card and a little cash in my pocket.
Also, I pay attention to what is going on while walking the streets or in crowds.

Posted by
601 posts

In the Spanish Justice system, when a pickpocket steals for a value of less than 400eur, he will only be fined. But he can be arrested if the amount is over 400eur.

Posted by
3830 posts

In Barcelona (or Spain in general), is there a need to keep your ID on you (e.g., for ordering alcohol)? Generally need ID on you in US. Should a tourist keep passport/ID locked in the hotel room?

In Spain we have something called a DNI, which is a National ID card for local citizens, this is what we keep with us for identification. When I'm in Spain I carry my DNI with me. I'm not sure if there is an equivalent in the USA? Nonetheless it is good to keep some form of identification on you, maybe not the passport, but a driver's license, student ID, I think there is also something called passport cards. From a tourist perspective ID is needed to acquire certain discounts at tourist sites. Some tourist sites also require ID to get tickets, like the Alhambra which needs a passport if you are a foreigner.

Are men safe to keep their wallet in their front pocket?

Not 100% safe, but that's where I would put mine, much safer than putting your stuff in back pockets or even in a backpack/day bag. Does not matter if you have a fancy locking carabiners on your zipper. If the criminals want it they will just yank off your backpack from your shoulder and make their escape running or on a scooter, then rip open your bag with a knife once in a safe location. I've heard of tourists trying the hold on to their bag during an attempt only to get their shoulder dislocated for their troubles. Best to avoid carrying anything larger than a purse in the touristy parts of Barcelona.

Posted by
1 posts

I am headed to Barcelona with my 18 year old daughter. We planned to go to an evening performance at the Palau de Catalan musica and have reservations at restaurants at 9 pm. Our hotel is in the Ramblas area. In your opinion, should we rethink the late dinners and walking around late being 2 women alone? I think my system for avoiding theft is about as good as I can make it, but worried about the roughness you described.

Posted by
10055 posts

Those aren't concerns. Just keep your purse closed and close to you. I was in Barcelona in September and again in December when the nights are long. Most people start dinner around 8 or 9 pm. The streets are full until late in the evening.
The concern is more about punky little pickpockets. Enjoy the concert and dinner.

Posted by
601 posts

Barcelona is not the Bronx. And I´m sure the Bronx is not what most people think it is. 9pm is an early dinner for most Spaniards, so by our standards you´re going to have an early dinner, streets are very safe and there´s not a bad guy waiting for you in every corner. Relax, and enjoy :)

Posted by
3830 posts

I am headed to Barcelona with my 18 year old daughter. We planned to go to an evening performance at the Palau de Catalan musica and have reservations at restaurants at 9 pm. Our hotel is in the Ramblas area. In your opinion, should we rethink the late dinners and walking around late being 2 women alone?

I would go ahead with your plans at Palau de la Música and then dinner at 9 pm, which is actually on the earlier side by Spanish standards. No problem there.

However that said, there are certain places I would avoid at certain hours, seedy places known for narco-trafficking, prostitution, and recently violent theft after dark. For example after the performance I would not stray in the area directly behind Palau de la Música called Sant Pere. Additionally I would not wander around the neighborhood of El Raval at night due to the same issues I have detailed above.

There are other parts of the city which are equally dodgy but more on the outskirts, so you won't have to worry about them as a tourist.

Posted by
4132 posts

The last time I was in Barcelona (2019), I arrived on a flight from Porto. It was about 22:00 when we arrived. I took the bus from the airport that stopped just around corner from the RS tour hotel. There were only 3 passengers on the bus including me. I was the only one that went all the way to my stop. I got there at about 23:00.

As usual, I was traveling solo. Also as usual, I was traveling very light with my small cross-body purse and a few other things inside a larger cross-body bag zipped and secured with a split keyring and while pulling a 2-wheeled international roller bag.

Was I scared on the less than 5 minute walk to my hotel? No. Was I aware of my surroundings? Yes. Were there lots of people around? Not as many as I expected. Was there any place close except a bar to grab a quick bite? No. Did the hotel have anything at all to offer? No. Thank goodness I had a few snacks in that cross-body bag.

I always wear a money belt like this StashBandz one under my clothes with the important stuff in it. I've tried every money belt option there is and for me, this is the most comfortable and the most secure. I also always wear pants that have at least one zipper pocket for one credit card and a little cash. There are so few things I truly need on a European trip that a wallet isn't necessary. They fit nicely in my money belt. For that reason, I'm always perplexed by people putting all their cards and cash in a wallet that's so easy to have removed, no matter where you put it.

Barcelona may be worse than other cities, but awareness and proper preparation are good ideas everywhere. I personally have been unsuccessfully targeted in Rome (1977), Levanto (2017), Stockholm (2018) and Granada (2019).
I've observed others being unsuccessfully targeted in Munich and Paris (1983). I've only seen one successful pickpocket. That was in Lisbon (2011) when I saw a teenage boy toss a very thick folded man's wallet to a somewhat older guy about 20 feet in front of me.

One way I secure my little cross-body purse at a restaurant, even here at home, is to slip the strap off my shoulder and down to my waist, either leaving the purse in my lap or putting it on the chair under one leg. For a backpack or larger cross-body bag I put one or both feet through one or both straps and pull the strap(s) up around my thighs. I always wear pants so that's easy and comfortable.

Posted by
2613 posts

One way I secure my little cross-body purse at a restaurant, even here
at home, is to slip the strap off my shoulder and down to my waist,
either leaving the purse in my lap or putting it on the chair under
one leg.

Great tip!!!!!

Posted by
162 posts

@Carlos and others, thanks for the guidance!
My wife and I will be visiting Barcelona in September. We’ve planned to arrive in our Sixt rental car and drop it off mid-afternoon at their place on Carrer de Palaudàries, 5-7, and then walk about 10 minutes with our roller carry-on bags to our hotel on Carrer dels Escudellers, 19. Is this (walking) a bad idea? Obviously we’ll look like tourists since we’ll be dragging a couple of suitcases.

Posted by
601 posts

Hold on, hold on...Barcelona is not the crime capital in the world and NOT every tourist is mugged or robbed, in fact the vast majority of visitors have a great time and enjoy this beautiful city. Questions like "Am I going to be robbed on this 10 min itinerary?" do not make any sense. There´s not a guy waiting to get you on every corner, c´mon!!

Posted by
10055 posts

Yikes, don't feel queasy. Just be sure your valuables are not easy to reach as in a backpack or pants pocket, either front or back. You would take this precaution any time and anywhere you are changing lodging and preoccupied by suitcases, not just Barcelona.

Use a moneybelt or a neck wallet. Or, my husband might put something in his zipped inside jacket pocket and zip his jacket closed. Just take precautions. You can pull your suitcase, look like a tourist and relax.

Posted by
3830 posts

@roger can you drop off your luggage with your wife at the hotel first then return the car and walk back yourself to the hotel? I only say this because you'll be dragging your various luggages and bags a long way through the most touristy part of the city, the area around the Columbus statue, uphill on las Ramblas then inward into the Barrio Gotico. The walk will probably take you closer to 20 minutes in my estimation with luggage.

If I were in that position I'd drop off my luggage at the hotel first, but the most likely is that nothing too bad will happen if you don't.

Posted by
10 posts

Great information on how to deter pickpockets and bag thieves. We will be in Barcelona in three weeks. I unfortunately do look like a tourist because I bring along my Nikon 35MM camera. I always have it's strap around my shoulder and across my upper body (both front and back) to the opposite side of my body, where my lower arm is usually close to the camera. I sometimes try to hold the body of the camera down so someone can't try to reach and grab the camera by the lens. Should I do more to protect it?

I'm also wondering if smart phones are a target, knowing that they are locked from anyone accessing unless they had a way to bypass it's security. I'm thinking that if the phone is in a zippered pants pocket, that would be a great determent.

How about a fanny pack that is worn on the front of the body?

Posted by
862 posts

I always have it's strap around my shoulder and across my upper body (both front and back) to the opposite side of my body

I do this with my phone lanyard and crossbody bag but have the strap under my jacket.

I'm also wondering if smart phones are a target

We were in Barcelona in February and lots of people had their phones on a thick cord (me included). I have been finding the phone lanyard good not just for security but it stops me dropping my phone off the top of a medieval tower while taking a photo.

Posted by
3830 posts

If your camera has sentimental value I would not bring it to Barcelona, that's going to be the number one target for pickpockets. All it takes is setting it down on an outside table and it's whisked away not to be see again. If it can be easily replaced then feel free to bring it but be on the look out.

Cell phones are another popular target, again all it takes is setting it down on a table and it's snatched up before you know. The criminals will just factory reset your phone without needing to unlock it and then sell it on the secondary market.

Posted by
2914 posts

Discussing safety in any city can be a sensitive topic, but it is encouraging to see that the previous posters have kept the conversation civil. As someone who was born and raised in Barcelona and currently lives here, I often refrain from answering such posts as I can be accused of being biased. However, I am in a position to provide some perspective on the matter.

Anyway, my answer is "yes.... and no"

Statistically speaking, crime in Barcelona is still negligible (as per cases per inhabitants+visitors), mostly consisting of pickpocketing incidents that are non-violent, actually the victim discovers it 'afterwards'. In fact, overall, cases of crime have decreased over the past two years. However, there has been an increase in the otherwise low rate of other types of crime in comparison to cities of similar or greater size and popularity.

This is not to say crime might not be a problem, since, sadly indeed the city is ahead of its peers, touristically speaking (Paris, Madrid, London, Rome) in pickpocket-related crime by a few percentage points -not that many though (again... factual data).

In the latest polls, Barcelonans perceive an increase in crime in the city. One of the issues contributing to the perception of increased crime is that some pickpockets have turned to mug, which involves the use of violence. This type of crime was not as common in Barcelona, which may be why it is felt as a problem. Another factor is the political climate, which includes a mix of not wanting to be seen as heavy-handed (by the coalition government) vs concerns ('this is hell') from incumbent candidates, and reality is, in fact, rather in the middle. Note we have city elections in May.

Furthermore, the laws in Spain have transformed from a dictatorship (pre-1977) to a democracy, and as a result, punishments for crimes tend to be lighter, although this can be seen as both a positive and a negative. After 40 years of very heavy-handed authoritarianism, people demanded that the principles of the laws turned more protective of individual rights and freedoms, therefore punishment for certain crimes tends to be now lighter -and yes, sometimes can be unfairly light! Finally, there is the issue of the powerful Spanish yellow press, which is notoriously anti-Catalan, peddling fake news to damage the reputation of Barcelona, the capital city of Catalonia, which has been a classic for decades.

The combination of all these factors can create a sense of 'danger' which doesn't necessarily reflect reality.

In terms of perpetrators, there is a mix of local and migrant criminals, even 'passers-by' (https://eturbonews.com/gypsy-criminal-gangs-eastern-europe-overrun-paris-tourist-attrac/). The Schengen Area and cheap flights have made it easier for criminals to commit crimes across borders, and this is a taboo issue for politicians and citizens alike, as nobody wants to be seen as xenophobic. This new breed of criminals do "weekend getaways" to touristy cities across Europe to perform their acts, knowing that persecuting cross-border crime is very difficult.

However, as @MikelBasqueGuide pointed out, the numbers are there, and there are certain types of crime committed mostly by locals while other types are committed by migrants and/or non-residents, and some of these criminals come from societies where violent crime is prevalent.

Barcelona is not an exception of course, having lived myself in other major cities elsewhere in Europe, I know the same basic issues and arguments are on the table in many of them and they're also taboo and touchy there. No one likes to accept "there's a problem on my watch".

To close down, let me clarify that "providing perspective" doesn't mean "excusing"... crime, no matter the type or the level of it, is a problem and needs to be addressed.

Posted by
2914 posts

Me personally, while overall I feel "safe" in Barcelona, I accept there are moments and places in which I might be more "alert" of my surroundings because I am not so comfortable with the "signs" I am seeing. Barcelona is certainly not the rosy picturesque Instagramable city that some portray, but it's not either the apocalyptic Madmax every-man-for-himself rundown city that others attempt to peddle. Personal experience plays a role in determining one's perception of safety, as does the area where one lives and one's level of travel experience.

Recommending not to visit Barcelona or to become a sort of a secret agent with hidden pockets, alarmed bags and booby-trapped gadgets to visit the city is, to me, an absurdity. If anything, anyone with that state of mind should refrain from visiting, because this person won't really enjoy his visit.

If you come to Barcelona, my very simple advice is to be cautious, as you'd be in any major touristy Western city, and act rationally, just that.

Posted by
10 posts

Enric. Great insight in your post. As Rick says, use caution and good sense, and as he says in his Spain book (and probably many of his other travel books), "don't be intimidated, just be smart". Be aware of your surroundings and what is going on near you. Being smart are things such as don't set your cell phone down where someone can snatch it up. For those of us carrying our 35MM camera, keep it around your neck and front and back side of your body with the camera when not in your hand, hanging under your arm (can't see someone being able to very easily snatch it away), and NEVER set it down anywhere. I like the idea of getting a lanyard that lets your cell hang from your neck and long enough that it would fit into a zippered pocket.

Our plans are not to use a backpack or fanny pack. Still pondering about using public transportation.

A question to both Enric and Carlos who live in Barcelona. Are most places now using contactless payment method? I used my Apple Pay feature 99% of our Scandinavia trip last August. I rarely had any cash or physical credit card on me - just my I-phone.

Don

Posted by
3830 posts

Yes everywhere in Barcelona is mostly payed with contactless payment and card now. Though maybe some cash on hand would be good for taxis.

Posted by
3830 posts

"don't be intimidated, just be smart". Be aware of your surroundings and what is going on near you. Being smart are things such as don't set your cell phone down where someone can snatch it up. For those of us carrying our 35MM camera, keep it around your neck and front and back side of your body with the camera when not in your hand,

The thieves are not so polite, they'll try to yank off whatever is hanging from you body, even if it's around your neck. When you confront them the situation can go south very quick as they usually hunt in groups to back each other up, and carrying blades (navajas). Here's an example - British tourist stabbed in Barcelona trying to fight off bag-snatching thieves

The first step of protecting yourself is being aware of the tactics and dangers posed by these criminals. All the thefts that I've personally witnessed have been of fairly clueless tourists who are unaware of their surroundings.

Posted by
2914 posts

I consider myself a relatively seasoned traveller, having also lived in several big cities across Europe and the US... to me, the "climate" in Barcelona is far (far!) safer than in some of those cities. But again, as I mentioned earlier, it all depends on where you come from. Those coming from "Pleasantville" -mind me, I'm not mocking or anything- might be less prone to be vigilant, suspicious and alert when travelling. To those city dwellers like me, this is somewhat inherent, whether you're in your home city or in any other city elsewhere. And to be frank, it comes pretty naturally, it does not produce anxiety or worry, one just knows one needs to watch out and take basic precautions while at the same time enjoying one's visit and having a great time. And, if even so, one ends up being pickpocketed (or mugged), well, that's modern life in big urban centres, you do your best but sometimes it's not good enough. Sadly that's how it goes.

Posted by
2914 posts

Don,
As mentioned by Carlos, cashless payments are ubiquitous but do carry some petty cash for small payments. Apple Pay is accepted in major retailers and restaurants, but I am not that sure it is in many smaller businesses... and taking into account that this is a country of medium-to-small size businesses you might encounter some difficulties at certain establishments. VISA and Mastercard, either PIN-chipped physical ccard or contactless is your best bet.

PS. Dublin huh?... Next time I drop by I'd love to see Bridge Park, I'm told it has become a trendy lively pedestrianised area now full of terraces, restaurants, shops and clubs, hasn't it? It didn't exist when I used to come down to Columbus to watch games at the Horseshoe (go Buckeyes!), it was just another boring suburban area with a mall and lots of parking lots. But again, that was decades ago, in my youth days.

Posted by
1934 posts

Why would you ever set your phone down at a table?

Having been to Barcelona, you can bring your phone and camera with you. Just don't put them down. I carry a cross strap small purse that holds my phone and my wallet. I always hold on to it and put it on my lap while I am eating at a cafe or restaurant. Finally, the city has an excellent Metro.

Perhaps because I've lived in big cities and have visited New York, but I always exercise the same caution there as I do in Spain. If your gut is telling you not to go in a certain direction, listen to it.